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Mother makes plea in daughter's death investigation

Hannah Truelove found dead in August; $1,000 reward offered

POSTED: February 20, 2013 5:36 p.m.

Hannah Truelove

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A grieving mother held on to her composure as she made an emotional plea asking anyone with information related to her teenage daughter’s killing to come forward.

“Hannah’s family and friends have been living a nightmare since Hannah was reported missing and found murdered,” said Mona Harris, the mother of Hannah Truelove, on Wednesday afternoon at the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. “Our entire family has suffered and continues to suffer every minute of every day since that fateful evening.”

Truelove, a 16-year-old Gainesville High School student, was found dead Aug. 24 behind Lake Lanier Club Apartments, where she lived with her mother.

The teenager’s body was discovered by a resident in thick woods between the apartment complex and Lake Lanier. She had been stabbed multiple times, investigators have said.

The public appeal is in light of investigators’ announcement that Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order authorizing a $1,000 reward for the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for her death.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting the sheriff’s office in the investigation.

Since the initial reports of Truelove’s death, the steady stream of information to investigators has dried up, sheriff’s office spokesman Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks said.

“This has been a very important case in our community, as any homicide is. A lot of the information we had going into this case has dried up. We’re very hopeful that not just the reward money, but the personal appeal from the victim’s family, will spur someone who knows something,” Wilbanks said. “We are certain there is someone out there who knows something about this crime and (can) help bring this case to a close.”

Part of the problem, Wilbanks said, is lack of cooperation from persons of interest.

“There are some people who have not cooperated with the investigation who we’d very much like to talk to,” he said.

Wilbanks described again the vehicle that investigators have considered a lead; a late 1990s to early 2000s four-door car, possibly a Chevrolet or Dodge, light silver with a white or lighter shade of silver driver’s door, and with heavy damage to the front.

“We’re hoping someone who knows about this vehicle being in (the) area, regardless of the condition it’s in now, they might come forward with that information as well,” Wilbanks said.

Truelove’s mother made an appeal based on Hannah’s character and heart.

“Please help my family by coming forward with your information, even if that information is about your son or daughter,” she said, later adding that, “I know in my heart Hannah would have done the same for you.”

Wilbanks said that while investigators hope the $1,000 reward from the state will help, the matter goes beyond money for the community and Truelove’s family.

“We’re trying hard not to make it an issue of money. We want this to remain an issue of closing the case for the right reasons. If it’s a monetary incentive that causes someone with information to come forward, then that’s fine. But we’re going to stay away from saying a dollar amount is or is not ‘enough,’” he said.

Public donations to a fund aren’t arranged by the sheriff’s office, but investigators would make any donations known if that were the case, Wilbanks said.

“We can’t go out and encourage the public to do that,” he said. “If they do, we would recommend that they go to a local bank somewhere and establish the account — the fund for it — and then coordinate through our investigations division if something develops and the fund needs to be cleaned out.”

And the matter is a community concern, he noted.

“We have someone in our midst that’s responsible for this crime that’s still out there,” Wilbanks said.

That reality is especially haunting for Harris.

“We can’t go back and save Hannah but we can honor her memory and bring closure to her tragic death,” she said. “I pray to almighty God you are willing to do this for Hannah even though you may not have known her.”


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